The story began when my former principal, Nancy Reynolds, saw a need for improved literacy instruction and brought together a team of teacher leaders to begin this work. The team included math specialist Pat Ritz, reading specialist Christina O’Neill, and literary specialist, me. Mrs. Reynolds defined our roles and responsibilities as teacher leaders and named us the Literacy Team. Working as a school-based team, we taught intervention classes, planned and implemented job-embedded professional development, collected student and teacher data, and used the data to refine our work.
Our central goal was to collect, analyze, and describe student work in ways that refined school-wide teacher practice and ultimately increased student achievement. We met weekly with teachers in various groups to share data, best practices for instruction, and content-related updates and materials. We facilitated a full-day of team planning to help teachers drill down to specific student data in order to develop an integrated, interdisciplinary instructional approach for the year. Over the course of almost ten years, we used personnel (principal as instructional leader and the three teacher leaders) to create a scope and sequence of professional learning and collect data to reflect upon and refine our work. Our school was and is a model for high student achievement and job-embedded professional development.
We succeeded largely because our principal empowered us as teacher leaders to have a strong voice in the policies and procedures at the school level. She listened to our concerns daily, revising plans to truly meet student and teacher needs. We were also able to stay in the classroom, teaching one to three classes with the most struggling students. By staying part-time in the classroom, we were able to maintain credibility with our colleagues, understand the full range of needs from students and community, and truly influence the culture of our school.
During our tenure, students progressed in terms of their achievement on the Maryland State Assessment program, consistently performing in the high 80th and mid-90th percentiles for the proficient and advanced performance bands in math and reading. Teachers collected student work, kept individual portfolios, and grew in their overall professionalism. Even though the Literacy Team is no longer in its original form, there continues to be strong remnants of the original goals of the program. Teachers continue to meet weekly to share best practices in grade-level content areas or whole-group. Teachers continue to collect data, writing Student Learning Outcomes, and collaborating as teams to reflect on student data. Teacher leaders in the roles of Department Chairs and School Improvement Team members continue to set directions for professional learning under the leadership of the current principal.